It’s true, we’ve seen stacks of strong candidates for the fighting genre ever since the demand became somewhat overwhelming. We can thank the likes of Street Fighter for that — what with its spool of eighties and nineties arcade smash-hits. Since then, we’ve come to terms with what deserves our attention and what just sort of dissolves to the backburner of our curious minds.
The fighting genre has a global community backing it thanks to couch co-op, local and online tournaments. And, although the shift in physics might be hardly recognisable at times, it still doesn’t stop us from wanting to pick up the latest in the most renowned franchises. That brings us to the best-selling branches in the fighting world. Now, believe it or not, there are really only seven that break the ten-million units plus barrier. I know — crazy, right?
Sure, there are a whole heap of potentials for this list, but it really only narrows down to the following seven. It’s these very franchises that define a genre with every launch and continue to influence newcomers even today. So, without further ado — here are the seven best fighting game franchises of all time. Cue the bell!
7. Dead or Alive
Unlike some of the more testosterone-pumped fighting titles, Dead or Alive managed to reach major success through a rather concerning amount of sex appeal in its female leads. Even when developer Team Ninja caught on to the massive success over the USP, it somehow evolved into a volleyball series. Not fighting, like its previous influences such as Mortal Kombat and Virtual Fighter. Volleyball. Just volleyball.
Despite the alarming amount of explicit material shown in the Dead or Alive franchise, it hasn’t stopped the series from picking up followers over the years. Although at the bottom of the podium of seven, Dead or Alive has still proven to be one of the best-surviving franchises since its 1996 debut. And hey, it isn’t only volleyball and half-naked poster models. There is a nice bundle of fighting titles in the franchise should you look past the elephant in the room. But, to be honest — it’s a pretty big elephant.
Bandai Namco has produced multiple award-winning fighting series, for sure. But among the many lies one of the most travelled franchises we’ve ever seen, with movies, manga books, album releases and over ten chapters to the video game timeline. Soulcalibur, unsurprisingly, is one of Namco’s proudest achievements in the fighting universe, and even today continues to serve up exceptional instalments.
Driven from the 1995 arcade original, Soulcalibur has continued to amass high figures as the sixth best-selling fighting franchise of all time. Also, thanks to the strategic crossovers between iconic faces in the gaming world, Soulcalibur has been able to attract not only fans of the series — but practically everyone else in the community, too. Now that’s an accomplishment.
5. Street Fighter
Often being referred to as the ‘one that started it all‘, Street Fighter has made one of the biggest impacts on the gaming world since the evolution of arcade machines. Ever since its 1987 Street Fighter first-born, the series has gone on to inspire countless other developers who have also sought the method to a healthy fighting franchise. With many of its gaming elements being implemented in most popular modern fighters, Street Fighter has been accredited for providing some of the most key ingredients for crafting the perfect fighting hit.
Besides from some of its core mechanics, Street Fighter also set the bar incredibly high when it came to building immersive backdrops and worlds. Although being a minor fraction to the experience itself, Street Fighter managed to make backdrops breathe and feel unique on every stage — and that sort of rubbed off on future releases from rival developers. But, all in all, Street Fighter is still considered to be the grandfather of fighting, and as they say — we should always respect our elders.
A little fact that many might’ve forgotten, but the very first PlayStation 2 game was actually a Tekken title. Tekken Tag Tournament, to be more specific. And, it’s thanks to that, that Tekken was pretty much the first game most consumers purchased with their consoles. But even with the popularity rise of the launch game, Tekken still managed to amass quite the respectable following several years beforehand with its original PlayStation trilogy in the nineties. Since then, the iconic King of Iron First Tournaments has drawn millions of crowds to the ring on a global scale.
Also taking many of the elements from renowned classics, Tekken didn’t originally bring anything new to the table. It did, however, provide players with an exciting roster of characters that would later become legendary. Even today, as many franchise faces rise and fall, Tekken still holds the gold for having the most recognisable ensemble to ever grace the genre.
3. Dragon Ball
Escalating the fighting scene to new heights is no other than the Dragon Ball series, with its major dosage of fast-paced combat and exaggerated powers that make every successful hit feel God tier. Or, you know — Super Saiyan tier.
Dragon Ball has revealed a large number of games since its Famicom console days way back in the late-eighties. Thanks to the success of the manga and anime series, the franchise found no troubles in establishing a player base once the fighting games started rolling. And, thankfully, it’s been a smooth ride ever since, with just shy of seventy games in the timeline. Yes — seventy.
2. Mortal Kombat
Thanks to its rather graphic violence and extreme Fatalities, Mortal Kombat has been placed under a pretty controversial spotlight these past twenty-eight years. Even today, with video games taking leaps to break every rule in the book — Mortal Kombat still finds itself in the interrogation chair over its chosen elements. But, in ways, it’s that controversy that has helped aid the franchise by attracting curious gamers to the light since its debut release. Thanks to them, Mortal Kombat has been able to wear their stripes proudly and cash-in on all the points that some would deem inappropriate. Now that’s marketing done right.
1. Super Smash Bros.
A Super Mario game? Here? Really? Well, you might’ve guessed it, but yes — Super Smash Bros. is indeed the highest-selling fighting franchise of all time. But we sort of expected that seeing as, you know, Nintendo’s Super Mario is basically the face of gaming. However, even with the incredibly high status, Nintendo still knows how to target a global market and produce quality games that everybody can enjoy. Whether it’s a youngster just starting out or a retired gamer on the hunt for some nostalgic fun; Super Mario tends to be the first franchise that gravitates towards minds.
With its diverse range of characters from crossover franchises and a whole bucket of addictive fun, Super Smash Bros. stands as the perfect series that flawlessly manages to fill checklists from every gamers scrapbook. Even with a handful of releases, Super Smash Bros. never feels like a barrel-scraper or a rushed experience on Nintendo’s part. There’s endless fun to be had and a variety of ways to have it in, and that’s why this loveable franchise ranks highest. Oh, and also because it’s sold over twenty million copies worldwide. That might have something to do with it, too.